With the Panthers’ 23-20 victory over the New Orleans Saints, NBC and NFL Network snared 13.3 million total viewers. While a not-insignificant number, the audience for last night’s 8:27-11:38 ET PM game in Charlotte was down 14% from the first TNF game on CBS this year on September 15 — which itself was down 27% from the year before.
Besides NFL season kickoffs, this is the first time NBC has had national NFL games on in primetime on Thursday. In a $450 million deal with the NFL, CBS and NBC are sharing TNF with five games each. The House of Moonves’ run of TNF ended October 20.
If the fall from TNF’s launch this year on CBS was hard, the viewership drop from the NFL season kickoff September 8 was much starker: Last night’s Panthers-Saints game fell 47% from the Panthers’ 21-20 loss to the Denver Broncos. That’s a hard tackle in a season of constant double-digit declines for the NFL even though NBC is touting that last night was the most-watched Thursday show for the net since ER pulled in 13.4 million back in November 30, 2006, excluding Thanksgiving evenings.
For you statheads, last night’s game pushed its eyeballs capture up to 13.6 million when you include those also watching on Twitter, NFL Digital and NBC Sports Digital. On TV alone, the game peaked at 15.8 million viewers in the 9:45-10 PM period. Overall, the start of TNF on NBC drew a national household rating of 8.1/15.
PREVIOUS, 8:11 AM: The 2016 debut of Thursday Night Football on NBC last night saw the Carolina Panthers beat the New Orleans Saints 23-20, but it likely will be remembered for the images of Panthers star Luke Kuechly being carted off the field. Having smashed into the Saints’ Tim Hightower, the distraught linebacker was seen hyperventilating and in tears before being taken off in the fourth quarter with a possible concussion.
There was no update on his condition after the game, but Kuechly did miss a trio of games last year due to a concussion.
— SNF on NBC (@SNFonNBC) November 18, 2016
There also was some ratings pain for NBC and the NFL, with the primetime matchup drawing a 9.3/16 in metered market results. While steady with the last TNF game on CBS and the NFL Network on October 20, last night’s game was down 44% from the Thursday NFL Kickoff game on September 8 on NBC, when the Panthers lost to their Super Bowl 50 opponent the Denver Broncos. Having said that, the Panthers-Saints game was the best anything has done on NBC this season since that opening game and certainly will win the net the night.
However, in a season that has seen the NFL plagued by double-digit declines on all nets, last night’s game was down 18% in MM result from the September 15 debut of TNF on CBS and the NFL Network this season. That game, which saw the New York Jets beat the Buffalo Bills 37-31, went on to pull in 15.4 million viewers for the House of Moonves – a 27% drop from the 2015 opener.
Unlike last year, CBS and NBC are sharing TNF this season in an estimated $450 million deal. Upping the play from eight games to 10, each net gets five games to simulcast with NFL Network as well as being streamed live on the likes of Twitter.
We’ll update later with the rest of Thursday’s ratings, including those How to Get Away With Murder and Grey’s Anatomy winter-finale numbers. In the meantime, here are the top 10 local markets for last night’s game:
1. New Orleans: 40.7/55
2. Charlotte: 25.7/42
3. Greensboro: 20.7/32
4. Raleigh: 14.5/24
5. Norfolk: 13.7/22
6. Denver: 13.6/23
7. Richmond: 13.3/21
8. Seattle: 12.7/23
9. Greenville: 12.5/20
10. Atlanta: 11.6/19
UPDATE, 9:05 AM: It was night of tough tackles, a midseason murder and cliffhangers last night as Thursday Night Football (2.7/10) debuted on NBC and How To Get Away With Murder (1.4/5) and Grey’s Anatomy (2.1/8) had their winter finales. Overall, on a night that saw a lot of steady results up against the NFL except for those winter finales, NBC topped the night with a 2.6/10 rating and 9.25 million viewers in the fast affiliates.
Already taking a hit in the metered market numbers, the Carolina Panthers triumphed over the New Orleans Saints 23-20 but the primetime opener of the expanded NFL presence on the Comcast-owned net was actually down 10% from the last TNF on CBS back on October 20. Adjusted later, that 8:27 – 11:38 PM Green Bay Packers’ 26-10 win over the Chicago Bears ended up getting a 4.5/16 rating among adults 18-49 and with 14.20 million. In the early numbers, last night’s game got a viewership of 9.61 million, compared to the 10.50 million who watched that CBS game – but that will change later undoubtedly as the October 20 game went up to over 40%.
Compared to the TNF opener on CBS back on September 15, last night’s game was down 29% fast affiliate to fast affiliate. Also simulcast on NFL Network, that New York Jets vs. Buffalo Bills game drew a 5.4/21 rating in the final numbers, with a total viewership of 15.4 million.
The Big Bang Theory (3.1/12) was the highest rated non-sports show on the Big 4 last night, and, despite hitting a season low in the fast affiliates, the CBS comedy held pretty steady against the NFL with a 9% dip from last week. Over on ABC, the midseason finales of Grey’s and HTGAWM were up 11% and 17% from last week with the latter matching a season high. However, in the bigger picture, they were down 16% and 39% respectively in the key demo from last year’s winter season enders – which did not face the NFL directly on that November 19, 2015 night.
Otherwise, the House of Moonves saw Life In Pieces (1.4/5) and struggling newbie Pure Genius (0.9/3) even with their November 10 shows. Mom (1.4/5) and its lead-in The Great Outdoors (1.5/5) were both down a tenth from last week. Bookend by Grey’s and HTGAWM, Notorious was even with its last original.
Fox’s Rosewood (0.7/3) and Pitch (0.7/3) were also the same as their November 10 shows as was the CW’s DC’s Legends of Tomorrow (0.6/2). Legends lead-out Supernatural (0.7/3) was up 17% among adults 18-49 from last week.